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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Punjab The Latest as it comes

Edict puts govt in a fix

Prabhjot Singh

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 20

Punjab continues to be on a boil for the seventh day today. Fragility of the peace at the surface after a day free of any major incident of violence became apparent when the hardcore Sikh organisations tried to wrest back the initiative after the Sikh clergy pronounced its second edict against the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda this evening.
Hopes of peace raised by last nights’ regret expressed by the Dera over incidents in the region since its May 13 advertisement in newspapers vanished soon after the second edict came.
The Sikh clergy has put the Punjab Government on a severe test again. The edict given from Akal Takht this evening wants a State bandh on May 22, all Sacha Sauda Deras closed by May 27, and inquiries by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into various cases against the Dera completed by May 30. The edict also wants the Sikh sangat to take out a procession from Fatehgarh Sahib to Punjab and Haryana Raj Bhavans in Chandigarh on May 31 to demand action against the Dera chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
Rejection of the deep regret expressed by the Dera over the incidents that followed its May 13 advertisement in newspapers has put the Punjab Government in a spot.
The immediate task for the Government is to reinforce its law and order machinery, first for the May 22 bandh followed by stepping up vigil to secure Sacha Sauda Deras in the State as some of the hardcore organisations have threatened to demolish all such Deras even before the deadline given by the edict.
The government reaction to the latest edict was not immediately known as insiders maintained the State machinery would have to act with utter restraint as on one hand it cannot afford to overlook the edict while at the same time it has to maintain law and order besides securing life and property of the followers of the Dera concentrated mainly in the Malwa belt.
The Union Government, sources reveal, was also watching the developments minutely. Efforts have been stepped up to persuade the Dera Sacha Sauda to tender a public apology to assuage the hurt feelings of Sikhs.
Both the Punjab and Haryana Governments are being issued advisories from time to time by the Union Home Ministry to diffuse the situation. But efforts so far have fallen flat and there appears no let up in the anger some hardcore Sikh organisations are nursing against the Dera chief and his followers.
The law and order agencies are worried on an additional account that deadlines given by the Akal Takht are close to the anniversary of Bluestar which falls in the first week of June.
This also happens to be the time when a substantial percentage of peasantry is free after harvesting of wheat crop. And the Sikh organisations draw their main support from the rural areas.

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